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Member Profiles > Anne and Fred Osborn


Anne and Fred Osborn

With family roots deep in the traditions of land preservation and conservation, Anne and Fred Osborn and their children are conscientious caretakers of properties in Garrison, Putnam County, that include Cat Rock, a popular site for weddings with panoramic views of the Catskills Mountains, the Hudson River and the New York City skyline as backdrops.

The foundations for their dedication and passion for the land were laid generations ago for both Fred and Anne, who serves on the NYFOA board.

Anne was raised on a 100-acre parcel of land in Northern Westchester near the Mianus River. Her father, Jim Todd, who passed away in 1996, donated the greater part of the land to the Nature Conservancy as part of the Mianus River Gorge Preserve. Now encompassing more than 700 acres around the Mianus River watershed in Connecticut and New York, the Mianus River Gorge Preserve was the first project completed by the Nature Conservancy in 1953. The Mianus Gorge Preserve is also the first National Natural History Landmark, so designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Some 150 years ago, Fred’s great-great-grandparents, purchased the property on the summit of Cat Rock, or Wildcat Mountain, in Garrison. Originally a favorite picnic destination, his grandparents started developing the 100-acre site in 1919 as a getaway from the busy life of New York City.

Cat Rock was owned by 76 shareholders of Oslands, Inc. in 1987, but shares in the land holding corporation established by Fred’s grandfather are now held by fewer than 20 family members. Anne and Fred have bought up many of the shares, and they now own the majority, they said.

The entire Cat Rock property is rented in July and August, but in the early summer, May and June, and early fall, September and October, Cat Rock is a picture-perfect place of celebration for brides and grooms. In 2008, 22 outdoor weddings were planned during the four months, Anne said.

Sometimes the wedding parties rent one or more of the many bedrooms of the main house, as well as a cabin in the woods, which serves as a rustic wedding night cabin. As for Anne and Fred’s own room, it is often occupied by the bridal couple or the bride’s parents, which leaves Anne and Fred bedless just about every weekend, they said.

The Osborns’ eldest son, Frederick Henry “Hank” Osborn IV, is Cat Rock general manager, overseeing the weddings while his parents stay with friends or attend college reunions and conferences. Anne’s family has a summer house on Martha’s Vineyard, and Fred’s family has a rustic retreat in Maine, though the distant locations prove to be far more convenient for their July and August eviction than for weekend travel, Anne said.

Hank and his wife were one of the first couples to be married at Cat Rock after Fred and Anne moved there. Daughter Ellie’s marriage followed three years later. Their youngest, Graham, held an engagement party last summer at Cat Rock, and he, too, is involved with Oslands, Inc., which owns and runs Cat Rock and the numerous houses on the estate.

With so many weddings and visitors each year, Cat Rock undergoes a lot of wear and tear. According to Fred, there are at least two or three different contractors on the property repairing ancient infrastructure at any given time. The Osborns are currently concentrating on repairing the plumbing, driveway, septic system, roof, windows and a steam-ruined floor. They are also contemplating repairing the 85-year-old original tennis court on the property.

For her part, Anne is attempting to restore the main garden, which was designed by Fred’s grandmother, Margaret Schieffelin Osborn, and Ellen Shipman in 1924. She also intends to restore the banks and earthen dam of an old ice pond with native riparian vegetation. This will result in vernal flooding of a few very large tulip, poplar and oak trees that are growing in the sediments of the old pond, she said.

Having already discussed the possibilities of wetland enhancement with the DEC, Anne plans to obtain bare-rooted plants and other shrubs from the state division of soil and water. Perhaps if conditions are right, this will create a suitable native turtle habitat, Anne said. She also intends to bury power lines along part of the historic Old West Point Road, which borders the ice pond.

When not concerned with the Cat Rock estate, Anne and Fred focus on their other properties. Fred and his siblings control another 150 acres of forest land, which Anne, a private consulting forester by training, has mapped by stand and soil type.

In the 1960’s, Fred’s grandparents and their neighbors set up the Garrison School Forest, 181 acres of wooded lands that included a state Revolutionary War historic site. Over the years, additional gifts to the School Forest have included a Boy Scout cabin, a meadow habitat and interpretive signage explaining the context of the School Forest.

Currently, the state is negotiating to buy a large parcel of land from the Osborns, in order to keep it undeveloped but under sound forest management. The existing preserve, managed by the DEC, was donated many years ago by Fred’s great-grandfather. Further acreage was purchased in the 1970’s from the estate of a deceased cousin.

Between managing the various properties with Fred, Anne keeps busy as an active grandmother to five grandchildren and serving on several non-profit boards including the NYFOA, the Garrison Union Free School Forest Committee, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the Russel Wright Design Center at Manitoga, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, the Black Rock Forest Consortium and the Alumnae Counsel of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

In addition, she worked temporarily as the science project coordinator for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a loose confederation of many different hiker groups, which helps to maintain more than 1,700 miles of hiking trails in the Highlands area, including the Appalachian Trail. Next fall, Anne will return to private forestry consulting, she said.

Fred, retired since 2005, previously worked with the Episcopal Church Foundation, a non-profit organization for clergy and parish support. While active with the Foundation, Fred spent much of his time traveling around the country teaching others how to raise money in support of their missions. Fred is currently on the board of 12 other organizations, though he is not active in NYFOA.

Anne became involved with NYFOA through the late Eugene McCardle in the spring of 2000. While writing her final paper for Yale University’s Forestry School, Anne kept up a regular correspondence with Eugene, who helped put her in touch with many valuable contacts. After his death later that year, Anne said she wanted to join NYFOA in an attempt to fill the large gap Eugene had left. That year Anne became chapter president of the Lower Hudson Chapter and held the position until 2007.

 

 

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